BY JAMES HARPER
The aroma of collard greens, ham and sweet potatoes permeated the air.
Hamburgers were frying on the grill and pizza was being baked in the oven. There is a station for salads. Desserts are plentiful and smorgasbords of other treats are waiting. And the cherry on top is it’s all you can eat at a flat rate.
This is not a new restaurant opening in the Greater Daytona Beach area, but the dining room where Bethune-Cookman University students can eat on the campus and residents can too.
Updated meal plan
The grand opening of B-CU’s dining room took place Tuesday with invited guests, including the contractor, school administrators and representatives from the school’s new food service provider – Sodexo Campus Services.
“As part of Sodexo’s contract with Bethune, we invested $2.5 million to redesign and renovate the resident dining operation,” said Michael Scheffres, district manager of Sodexo.
Scheffres said students have the option of buying a meal plan.
“When they come to the dining hall, just having their card slid – they can eat all they want or if they do not have a meal plan, they can pay a door rate and eat all they would like at the visit,” he said.
“The operation is open to the public as well to pay the door rate and eat all they would like,” he continued.
Scheffres said the company understands that students need to be treated with dignity and respect.
“Sodexo is a partner, not a vendor. (We are a) first-class service. This is their facility, their cafeteria,” Scheffres added, referring to the students.
‘Just the beginning’
Dr. Dwaun Warmack, B-CU’s senior vice president of administration and student services, spoke on behalf of President Edison Jackson.
“Dr. Jackson said ‘This can’t be what we give our students,’” Warmack recalled Jackson’s comment when he first toured the dining hall upon arriving on campus last year as the interim president.
Warmack said renovating the dining hall is part of Jackson’s plan to make B-CU the “best institution in the country that happens to be an HBCU.”
“This is just the beginning,” he quipped.
B-CU Provost Dr. Makola Abdullah also was impressed with the new dining area.
“This is different than when I was in school. (Our) university is about academic excellence in everything we do,” he commented.
Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food and facilities management services in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Sodexo, whose corporate headquarters are in Gaitersburg, Md., recently presented the school with a check for $110,000.
“The donation is to further enhance the legacy of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune,” said Dr. Hakim Lucas, B-CU’s vice president for Institutional Advancement.
Lucas said Sodexo’s contribution would satisfy some of the needs in the student development area.
“The gift will be used to support the UNCF Combined Charities Campaign, an annual drive for unrestricted funds, and it will be directed to enhance student support services,” Lucas continued.
A Starbucks too
Sodexo prides itself on customer service, says Division Vice President Jim Jenkins.
“We listen to our customers’ opinions and then seek creative ways to fulfill those needs. It’s a pretty simple business… tell us what you would like and we’ll provide. We are not here to drive revenue, we drive satisfaction,” Jenkins said.
Sodexo also has equipped the campus with several small enterprises – a Starbucks Café and a World of Wings.
“We will continue to conduct surveys of the student body and administration in order to provide even more improvements for the future,” said Sodexo’s Senior Vice President Fred Formichella.